From Jennifer on December 3rd, 2009 in Kitchen Remodel
We often look to Europe and beyond for answers to style and design questions, but just what is it about the kitchens across the world that intrigue us?
Let’s travel the globe, if only for a moment, and see what other nations are up to in kitchen design. Every culture has something to inspire new ideas for a room that garners much of our attention.
While most of us think of French kitchens as somewhat old-fashioned, with lots of natural woods, stone and tile, and colors like white and country blue, the French have been updating their look like no other.
Today, the modern French kitchen is very bold with color choices. Large expanses of vibrant color splash the French kitchen, giving it a very audacious appearance. In some cases, it’s the cabinets themselves that draw attention with their unique finishes of burgundy, green or fire truck red, but often it’s the daring colors chosen for the countertops or wall coverings that catch the eye.
Another French trend is the broad use of lighting. Not only do they use natural light, but the French often illuminate every corner of the kitchen with overhead lighting, in-cabinet lighting and lights shining down on countertop spaces.
Yes, we tend to think of the Italian kitchen as a quaint Mecca of stone hearths with large, older, white-hair-in-a-bun matriarchs arched over boiling pots of sauce. In reality, the modern Italian kitchen is anything but.
Italian kitchens are designed so that the chef has everything at their fingertips and is shielded from the traffic flow in the rest of the room. And yet the kitchen is open and organized in such a manner that the cook can still feel like a part of the crowd, near seating and conversations.
A small sitting bar is often attached to a kitchen island, while the main eating area is close by or separated by a half-wall.
Admittedly, not much comes to mind when trying to conjure an image of an Australian kitchen, save Crocodile Dundee skewering something to drag home for dinner or putting another shrimp on the barbie. Not surprisingly, though, the modern Australian kitchen is right up there with American kitchens as far as design and functionality is concerned.
Notice how the color white plays a huge part in the typical Aussie kitchen. Very clean lines and sterile colors create a starched and unsoiled look, though not uncomfortably so.
If you look closely, you’ll also note that the Australians are catching onto the trend of moving many of the countertop-dwelling and wall-hanging small appliances down below the solid surface. The focus on wall cabinets is not broken up by items like microwaves or oven cabinets; the majority of these items are confined to base cabinet level, giving the eye a continuous flow over the expanse of wall cabinets and other eye-level features.
Although it shares a continent with America, Mexico has very distinct ideas when it comes to many things, kitchen design being a big one. Sticking to their own traditions and customs, many Mexican kitchens have kept an Old World style.
Tile plays a big role in the average Mexican kitchen, which lends itself to even greater charm. The tile is used in countertops, but also as backsplashes along the walls. Whether ceramic or terra cotta, solid-colored or patterned, the tile gives small kitchens a lot of character.
I’m certain that the saying, “Too many cooks in the kitchen” did NOT come from Mexico. The average Mexican kitchen today is much like it has always been, usually small and designed with just a single user in mind. Though many are more modestly sized than we’re used to, there’s something to be said for having everything you need to make a meal within arm’s length. Not to mention the easy clean-up in a kitchen that’s not the size of a football field.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises comes in the curvy cabinets of Russian kitchen design. While the majority of kitchens around the world are updating the typical square and rectangle designs, the Russians are becoming more well-rounded. Literally.
There’s something very alluring and sexy about curves, and it translates well in kitchen design. Not only is it exceedingly attractive, but curved edges also make the kitchen flow better and give users more mobility without working around sharp edges. No more catching your hip on the edge of the counter!
It stands to reason that with the onset of curvy cabinets, the use of wood in the kitchen has abated. Instead, cabinets are made of metal and plastics, materials that are more easily formed into rounded planes. Russia has definitely jumped to the head of the class with their sleek and shiny new cabinetry.
What’s interesting here is how rustic, charming and simple design can be. Especially with this particular Scottish kitchen, you can see how everyday solutions serve as design features. Not many typical kitchen cabinets are found here. Instead, a breakfront or buffet cabinet serves as a large kitchen cabinet. This is actually a versatile solution; the buffet serves as storage/countertop space and some open shelving. And although it’s not modern by any means, the antique range is especially charming and has separate chambers for baking different dishes at once.
Something jumps out at me in Dutch kitchens, or more aptly put – remains absent. There is virtually no use of wall cabinets. Although blank walls can seem like a waste of space, here, they seem to have glorified the simple and blended walls nicely with the other kitchen features. By adding shelves in useful places, they’ve broken up the wall strategically while still creating an open feel that decreases the presence of clutter.
The Finnish seem to have mastered the art of the elegant kitchen. Extremely clean lines are seen here, but not so clean that the room lacks originality and design distinction. While there are seemingly few cabinets, they’ve made great use of the space they have. By decreasing the size of the appliances, the owners give themselves ample countertop space. A second tier of wall cabinets are lit from behind their opaque glass doors, giving the illusion of openness while keeping kitchen items nicely out of sight.
Simplicity seems to be a trend in English kitchens as well. With an affinity for shy colors like contrasting black and white, the British have found an old-new way to create intriguing design without introducing a whole color palette. The black and white features in this kitchen show how the basics can help give a very clean appearance.
Because this room doubles as a kitchen and dining area, this is not a tremendously sizable space. What they’ve done here, though, is use light and reflection to make the room look larger than it is. The sheen of the cabinetry, countertops and appliances all add to this effect.
These fairly neutral design tactics lend themselves well to meet any homeowner’s personal taste. All you have to do is add accent pieces that reflect your style, like the colorful placemats, candles and cutting board that are present in this particular kitchen.